Was it too much to ask that the tech industry ease up a little on SMB-related news while ChannelPro’s editors were flying around the country like maniacs to attend major distributor conferences? Yes, it apparently was, because there were actually more headline-worthy stories this week than usual. Here’s a look at a few of them that we should have told you about, and would have too (honest!) if we weren’t so jet lagged all week.
So about those conferences…It turns out we couldn’t even keep up with the flood of stories coming out of this week’s four major distributor events, three of which ChannelPro attended in person for goodness sake. For example:
- We told you about the “ecosystem of cloud” enhancements and new distribution agreement with Dropbox Business that Ingram Micro announced at its 2016 Cloud Summit, but didn’t mention that the distributor has added both hosted business phone systems from Fonality and Dun & Bradstreet’s new Business Solutions for Microsoft Office 365 service to its cloud marketplace. The latter solution lets users access D&B’s vast trove of sales and marketing information directly from within Microsoft Excel and other Microsoft productivity applications.
- We gave you blow-by-blow coverage of the action at SYNNEX’s 2016 Varnex Spring Conference, but did little to call out the disti’s strategic initiative to supplement its Microsoft solution portfolio with an ecosystem of related third-party ISV solutions.
- We passed along details of the new focus on public safety solutions that SYNNEX showcased at its Red, White & You public sector IT conference in Dallas, but didn’t mention that the company has added GSA Schedule 58 contract support for its Pro AV audio-visual solutions, a move that will help Pro AV resellers get in on federal government sales opportunities.
- We were right on top of the integration with ConnectWise’s CloudConsule solution that Tech Data made public at its TechSelect Spring 2016 Partner Conference, but had zilch for you on the company’s extension of its Warranty Attach Plus service—which helps hardware VARs capture high-margin warranty revenue by automating the warranty registration process—to printers, scanners, and MFPs from Brother.
But wait, there’s more. We also didn’t tell you about Microsoft’s intriguing new Project “Madeira” SMB business management solution, which includes Azure-hosted accounting, sales, purchasing, inventory, and CRM components with deep, context-sensitive links to Microsoft Outlook that are designed to boost end user productivity by reducing the need to jump back and forth between email and back-end business systems. Unveiled at the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit, the system is now in public preview.
For the moment, ChannelPro has more questions than answers about how Project “Madeira” lines up with Microsoft’s existing ERP and CRM products, not to mention how much traction the new offering is likely to get with partners and customers. Chime in below with a comment if you have thoughts on the matter.
Here today, gone tomorrow. There was more big news from Microsoft this week, as it happens, and for some partners at least it was bad news as well. On Tuesday, Microsoft revealed that it will be 86ing at least a dozen partner competencies over the next 18 months, including the CRM, Hosting, and Midmarket Solutions Provider designations. The reason? Changing customer needs, wrote Gavriella Schuster (pictured), general manager of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, in a blog post that by our count uses the words “evolve,” “evolving,” and “evolution” 12 times.
On the flip side, Microsoft will be adding a new Windows & Devices competency later this month in an attempt to satisfy “the unprecedented demand we’re seeing for Windows 10 and mobility.” Other new competencies will follow over the next year and a half.
Judging by informal reactions to the announcement from Microsoft partners we contacted, few if any MPN members saw this coming. It certainly took Carl Mazzanti, CEO of big-time Microsoft partner eMazzanti Technologies (and 2015 ChannelPro 20/20 Visionary) by surprise. His company stands to lose six competencies thanks to the pending retirements. Not that it's costing him any sleep.
“Changes in competencies is what you can expect from a firm moving at the speed of the Internet. Our investments and highly trained staff should position us well with new competencies,” he writes in an email to ChannelPro. “It will be interesting to see how this is presented at Microsoft’s [Worldwide Partner Conference].”
Yes, interesting indeed.
And no, actually, we’re not done with Microsoft yet. Because the hard-working gang in Redmond have also recently rolled out:
- A whole passel of new tools and resources for K-12 educators based on Windows 10, OneNote, and Office 365.
- New additions to the Office 365 administrative reporting portal that provide usage stats for SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, and Skype.
- New functionality for the Android and iOS editions of Skype for Business enabling users to view shared desktops and applications during meetings, plus a newly-added feature that lets you move a meeting onto your cellular line if your Wi-Fi connection is too weak to provide reliable service.
Just lookin’ for a hit. As we previewed on Monday, the new HTC 10 smartphone debuted on Tuesday, and as suspected HTC played up the handset’s “world-class camera,” “gold-standard audio,” accelerated performance, and long battery life. Reviews have ranged from good to bad to somewhere in between, leaving us wondering if the new phone is the hit HTC has been so desperately lookin’ for of late. (And surely I can’t be the only one here to get the Dwight Yoakum reference, can I?)
Elsewhere in the wonderful world of products. There was this:
- IGEL, a maker of thin and zero client technology, announced that its Universal Desktop 9 series thin clients now come with a zippy Intel Celeron J1900 quad core processor inside.
- LG shipped two new 15-inch LG gram 15 series laptops. The svelte new notebooks are 0.7 inches thick and weigh 2.2 lbs.
- MobileIron launched MobileIron Access, a new security technology that limits access to cloud-based corporate data to “trusted apps on trusted devices with trusted users.”
- Nexenta, Micron, and Supermicro announced a new alliance aimed at jointly creating open source software-defined storage solutions for all-flash storage data centers.
- SanDisk introduced the InfiniFlash IF150 system, a new addition to its InfiniFlash family of all-flash storage solutions with twice the performance of earlier models.
- Vertiscale proudly announced that cybersecurity specialist Solis Security will now use Vertiscale’s workspace-as-a-service solution to help its clients safely access remote data, applications, and desktops.
- ZyXEL pulled the wraps off two new entry-level small office VPN firewalls.
This week’s stats ticker:
- Global sales of cloud computing infrastructure rose 21.9 percent in 2015 to $29 billion, according to IDC.
- In less encouraging news from IDC, worldwide PC shipments dropped 11.5 percent on a year-over-year basis to 60.6 million units in the first quarter of 2016.
- Roughly one new zero-day threat appeared every week in 2015, according to Symantec. That’s twice the 2014 rate.
And finally, for the geek who has everything…How about a roughly $45 (at current exchange rates) Internet-enabled Japanese toothbrush with three associated smartphone games designed to make brushing FUN, plus a reporting tool jam-packed with statistics about how long you brush and which teeth you do and don’t reach during brushing? Called the G・U・M Play, it’s available for pre-order now. And you know it’s going to be useful too, because according to the Observer it was made in collaboration with the same people responsible for the Disco Dog smartphone-enabled LED dog vest (see below) and lifesize Lady Gaga doll.
A whole passel of new tools and resources for K-12 educators based on Windows 10, OneNote, and Office 365.